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The Shortest History of China

From the Ancient Dynasties to a Modern Superpower—A Retelling for Our Times

By Linda Jaivin

Journey at a thrilling clip across the epic history of China—through millennia of early innovation to modern dominance
As we enter the “Asian Century,” China increasingly demands our attention—as an economic powerhouse, a beacon of rapid modernization, and an assertive geopolitical player. Yet, from kung fu to tofu, tea to trade routes, and sages to silk, Chinese philosophy, commerce, and innovation have influenced our world for thousands of years. Linda Jaivin distills China’s vast history into a short, freshly relevant account that crisscrosses this much-storied land and introduces such unforgettable personalities as:
  • Confucius, intrepid traveler and moral adviser
  • Li Bai, great Tang poet and celebrity of his time
  • Empress Dowager Cixi, effective ruler of the Qing for nearly 50 years
  • Mao Zedong, communist revolutionary and founder of the People’s Republic
Globally minded readers will find everything they need to know about this rising superpower: the rarely told story of women in China, from the earliest warriors to twentieth-century suffragettes; China’s path from its tribal origins to the modern Communist Party under Xi Jinping; and the historical specters of corruption and disunity that continue to haunt the nation today.

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Linda Jaivin

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Review quotes
“The perfect introduction . . . Jaivin has a terrific eye for telling details and effortlessly turns a highly complex, sprawling story into a thoroughly informing and entertaining read.”Sydney Morning Herald

“Absorbing, wonderful . . . one of the best histories of China.”—Richard Bernstein, author of China 1945

“A tour de force and a really marvelous read. . . . [Jaivin] makes the case that understanding history and patterns that recur throughout history is crucial for understanding modern China. . . . She also writes powerful vignettes about women in China, stories that often don’t get told in conventional histories.”—Bec Strating, ABC Saturday Extra’s “The Pick”

Advance Praise for the Australian Edition

“A fast-paced and witty survey of China’s past, written with spirit and verve. Jaivin knows her stuff but wears her erudition lightly. Iconoclastic, informative, and more attentive to female figures than many comparable works. Highly recommended.”—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
“An electrifying and erudite ride through Chinese history—Linda Jaivin has written an illuminating history book that is also a real page-turner.”—Alice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter

“War, revolution, rise and fall, emperors, tyrants: China is more than a nation and bigger than a myth. It demands a great storyteller, and in Linda Jaivin, it has one.”—Stan Grant, author, journalist, and international affairs analyst for the Australian Broadcasting Commission
“It’s no mean feat to cover the entire history of China in fifteen chapters, but Linda Jaivin manages it with panache. Succinct, lucid, and with a keen eye for detail, this slim book is an indispensable primer on China.”—Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia and cohost of The Little Red Podcast

“Read this in a fever-fueled blitz, look up and I promise you that China—and indeed, the world—will make more sense.”Benjamin Law, Australian author, journalist, and broadcaster
Product Details
Shortest History Series
Number of pages
Publication date
September 28, 2021